Forkhead Transcription Factors (FoxOs) Promote Apoptosis of Insulin-Resistant Macrophages During Cholesterol-Induced Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress

  1. Takafumi Senokuchi1,
  2. Chien-Ping Liang1,
  3. Tracie A. Seimon1,
  4. Seongah Han1,
  5. Michihiro Matsumoto1,
  6. Alexander S. Banks1,
  7. Ji-Hye Paik2,
  8. Ronald A. DePinho2,
  9. Domenico Accili1,
  10. Ira Tabas134 and
  11. Alan R. Tall134
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Columbia University, New York, New York
  2. 2Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  3. 3Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Columbia University, New York, New York
  4. 4Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, Columbia University, New York, New York
  1. Corresponding author: Takafumi Senokuchi, senokuchi{at}


OBJECTIVE—Endoplasmic reticulum stress increases macrophage apoptosis, contributing to the complications of atherosclerosis. Insulin-resistant macrophages are more susceptible to endoplasmic reticulum stress–associated apoptosis probably contributing to macrophage death and necrotic core formation in atherosclerotic plaques in type 2 diabetes. However, the molecular mechanisms of increased apoptosis in insulin-resistant macrophages remain unclear.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—The studies were performed in insulin-resistant macrophages isolated from insulin receptor knockout or ob/ob mice. Gain- or loss-of-function approaches were used to evaluate the roles of forkhead transcription factors (FoxOs) in endoplasmic reticulum stress–associated macrophage apoptosis.

RESULTS—Insulin-resistant macrophages showed attenuated Akt activation and increased nuclear localization of FoxO1 during endoplasmic reticulum stress induced by free cholesterol loading. Overexpression of active FoxO1 or FoxO3 failed to induce apoptosis in unchallenged macrophages but exacerbated apoptosis in macrophages with an active endoplasmic reticulum stress response. Conversely, macrophages with genetic knockouts of FoxO1, -3, and -4 were resistant to apoptosis in response to endoplasmic reticulum stress. FoxO1 was shown by chromatin immunoprecipitation and promoter expression analysis to induce inhibitor of κBε gene expression and thereby to attenuate the increase of nuclear p65 and nuclear factor-κB activity during endoplasmic reticulum stress, with proapoptotic and anti-inflammatory consequences.

CONCLUSIONS—Decreased Akt and increased FoxO transcription factor activity during the endoplasmic reticulum stress response leads to increased apoptosis of insulin-resistant macrophages. FoxOs may have a dual cellular function, resulting in either proapoptotic or anti-inflammatory effects in an endoplasmic reticulum stress–modulated manner. In the complex plaque milieu, the ultimate effect is likely to be an increase in macrophage apoptosis, plaque inflammation, and destabilization.


  • Published ahead of print at on 26 August 2008.

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    • Accepted August 7, 2008.
    • Received April 18, 2008.
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  1. Diabetes vol. 57 no. 11 2967-2976
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